It’s a shame that 99 percent of the hard-line “family values” moralizers ruin it for the rest of them.
Take Grant Storms, for example — please. The reverend, best known for protesting the Southern Decadence festival in the French Quarter, was recently arrested after two women said they saw him masturbating in his van at Lafreniere Park. The witnesses said he was fondling his privates while facing a playground full of kids.
Initially Storms claimed he was merely urinating into a bottle. Then he apologized and confessed to having his hand in his pants, though he denied any self-pleasuring had occurred. He admitted to having a “problem with pornography.”
This was the most surprising part, though:
[Storms] asked for the forgiveness of those he had hurt with his anti-gay rhetoric. “I was very proudful, arrogant,” Storms said. “I have been vicious at times in my condemnation of others.”
Mark this as another big dip in a rollercoaster life. According to a 2003 Times-Picayune profile, Storms trucked into New Orleans in 1984 after he “experienced a personal conversion” following his first divorce. He joined a church on Canal Street and became a youth pastor. In 1989 he started his own church on Coliseum Square. He married again and opened up a drug rehabilitation program.
“Then I went through a real dark period in my life,” he said. Storms will not talk specifically about it except to say that it involved “a moral failing” that turned him out of his pulpit and led to a second divorce in 1994.
But Storms gradually got his act together again, remarrying in 1998. During a three day fast, he “experienced a call from God” and became a Christian talk-radio pundit. He used this platform to make conservative rants about current events, including Carnival celebrations. But he did more than just talk:
Although acknowledging that he is not their equal, Storms said he models himself after St. Paul and Martin Luther because of their “bold, public action.” So it is that Storms got arrested, he said, at an abortion clinic in Wichita, KS., and earlier “for inciting a riot” while preaching outside a New York bar.
Storms went on to lead his famous protests against gays at Southern Decadence. “We’re dealing with the critical issues . . . Christian hatreds, if you will . . . because we love America,” Storms explained.
That sounds a lot like the members of Westboro Baptist Church, the Kansas-based congregation that believes God punishes America because of its toleration of gays. While this basic view is fairly prevalent on the religious right, Westboro makes the political mistake of seeing divine punishment in military casualties in Iraq instead of, say, hurricanes in New Orleans.
Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that Westboro could voice their dumbass “Christian hatreds” at military funerals– just like Storms used to do among the Southern Decadence crowds. I agree with the principle of the ruling. Free speech can be hurtful, but allowing it is far better than any censorious alternatives. These Westboro zealots have convinced themselves that they are on the side of righteousness, and sincerely believe their “God hates gays” crapola.
So here’s an idea: perhaps, as part of his psychotherapy, Grant Storms should be encouraged to do more than simply apologize for his previous condemnations. I think he should stand in the middle of the next Southern Decadence festival holding a (big) sign that reads: “I’m sorry I used religion as an excuse to channel my self-hatred onto gay people.” Storms could meet this challenge. After all, he has no fear of strident public displays.
Afterwards, Storms could expand on this new personal mission. He could hold similar signs at Westboro Baptist protests around the country, pointing out the error of their ways. Westboro’s resistance would be almighty, of course, but if anyone could persuade them away from their misbegotten convictions, Storms could. He understands where they’re coming from, and has similar experience parading hatred he calls Christian.
Either way, the exercise would prove therapeutic for Storms as it would require him to repeatedly confront the same destructive beliefs he seems to be outgrowing. It’s a long shot, but imagine if Storms somehow got Westboro to stand down, and agree to stop their hideous protests. He’d become an instant national hero, and redeem himself from his current nadir.